Pedagogy, Instructional Strategy and Backward Design for a Flipped Classroom

Any course first starts with a curriculum – what needs to be taught in the course and with how much time and score weightages need to be structured into the curriculum. The curriculum is then becomes a guideline for teachers. (What I write in this blog is specifically using my experience in teaching-learning of science using 21st century tools and technology.)

Curriculum is all about what we are going to teach. Pedagogy is about how we teach it.

Curriculum and Pedagogy

When implementing some curriculum content, it is important to use a range of pedagogical strategies depending on the learners’ abilities, the type of content to be taught, and the time allotted.

Instructional strategies are a subset of pedagogical strategies. Instructional strategies include all approaches that a teacher may take to actively engage students in learning. These strategies drive a teacher’s instruction as they work to meet specific learning objectives and goals. Effective instructional strategies meet all the development needs of the learners in the class – it is closely associated with the leaning experience, and can be measured by assessments of students.

Some of the instructional strategies can be as follows:

  1. Presentation – direct talks and lectures
  2. Exhibits and demonstration
  3. Drill and Practice, tutorials (problem based)
  4. Games and simulations
  5. Role-playing
  6. Discussions and debates (Socratic method)
  7. Hands-on (inquiry based)
  8. Field Trips
  9. Case Studies
  10. Internships

Each of these instructional methods or teaching solutions falls into 4 types: direct, indirect, interactive and experimental. It is important to note that instructional methods or teaching solutions will also depend on the types of content to be delivered (facts, concepts, principles, etc.)

In terms of the ed-tech environment of the 21st century, these 4 methods of instructions can be said to be

  • Receptive instructionis characterized by a lecture or an Internet site where the student is merely provided with information. (indirect method)
  • Directive instructionis characterized by a computer-based tutorial where information is presented, the student responds, feedback is provided and this tutorial learning cycle is repeated. (direct method)
  • Guided Discoveryis characterized by a computer simulation that allows the student to manipulate some device or environment. (interactive method)
  • Exploratory instructionis characterized by an open learning environment in which the student is provided a rich, networked database of information, examples, demonstrations, and exercises from which the student can select whatever is appropriate to their current needs and mental models.  (experimental method)

Effective implementation of any of these teaching methods will depend on assessment strategies as well. When planning, it is advisable to use a ‘backward design’ since method curriculum, pedagogy (teaching and instruction) and assessment are all interlinked.

There are four steps that need to be followed:

  1. Begin with the curriculum in order to determine the desired outcomes from the learning objectives.
  2. Create formative assessments that can indicate to you if learners are learning or otherwise!
  3. Then create summative assessments to map the learning objectives.
  4. Lastly create a pedagogical instruction that is required in order for the learners to meet the desired outcomes. If not change your instructional approach.

The backward design is very useful for a flipped classroom!

The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions.

The value of a flipped class is in the repurposing of class time into a workshop-style interaction where students can inquire about lecture content, test their skills in applying knowledge, and do hands-on activities. During class sessions, instructors function as coaches or facilitators, encouraging students in individual inquiry and collaborative effort.

Although the idea of a flipped classroom is straightforward, an effective flip requires careful recording of lectures, , and out-of-class and in-class elements must be carefully integrated for students to understand the teaching/pedagogical model and be self-motivated to carry on to learn.

Flipped Classroom

Educators without Borders

Doctors Without Borders or Médecins Sans Frontières, are doing a very commendable humanitarian job in war torn areas and conflict zones, on a completely volunteer basis. Of course there are many other NGOs along with UHNHR who are providing refugees shelter, food, medicine, water and all other basic necessities needed for a reasonably dignified human existence.

But when I watch on the news about children in these refugee camps, wasting their precious lives, it is a heart wrenchingly sorry situation for me! It makes me wonder, just like Doctors Without Borders, can’t we have an organization ‘Educators without Borders’? Or may be ‘Teachers without Borders’? Of course I know that there are organizations which are already teaching in the refugee communities, but it seems that these engagements are on a minimal basis, only to keep the children busy and occupied, for short duration during a day.

I suggest that the Educators without Borders should have a well-defined agenda to school young children on a curriculum driven basis, and skill-up young adults for being job worthy (identify the skill sets required to be taught should be on the basis of ‘trades’ available for them in the near future,). These educators should move swiftly into refugee camps, without wasting any time, and start the process of teaching all those interested (if it is made compulsory within a camp, for all persons below the age of 20-22 years, nothing like it!!). It has to be emphasised to one and all that education and acquiring skills, is the only route for betterment of a refugee’s life, and guarantee something other than sadness, politics, drugs, and other negative aspects.
Teaching at a refugee camp

In my earlier blog on “Schools and College of the Future” I had mentioned that to get any education, one needs a computer (with relevant software and hardware) and an internet connection! The Educators without Borders should be equipped with these wherewithals, and implement a required curriculum so that there truly is some hope for the future for the refugees.

To me it seems to be the easiest and the quickest way to get necessary education to a generation in conflict zones, who may miss out, and may be dragged into a life of poverty and despair – education will hopefully lessen the future human cost of a conflict.

Please read an interesting article in NYT:

(Aside: Apparently there is an NGO known as Education Without Borders concentrating on education in Southern countries, and is recognized by Spain)

The Great Training Robbery

I am writing this blog, taking into account an article I had read many years ago in the Indian Express editorial column regarding how schools, colleges, tuition and coaching classes, and other professional training companies, are fleecing everyone in the name of training!

And of course the title of my blog (and the original newspaper article) is derived from the wonderfully entertaining movie: The Great Train Robbery! In the movie, the antagonist Briggs is the hero; and Sean Connery depicted the character with charm. You love every wicked and clever move that he plans for the heist, and when he escapes with the loot, you clap! The entire story is based on an actual robbery that occurred on 8th August 1963 on a Royal Mail train going from Glasgow to Euston.

train lines

But I don’t clap at the loot that his happening in the education and training industry. There is hardly anyway that one can stop this trend, so everyone is jumping into the money making band wagon …………….to hell with all the principles of fair play in the education industry!

Is education (and training) a service industry or otherwise?

If education is perceived as a service, it is difficult to measure the ‘goodness’ of the service and if the customer is ‘happy’! The problem is that the customer is a student, and the paying client is the parents or someone else other than the student! So there is a mismatch of the person who receives the service (A) and the person who demands the service (B)!

The only way to judge the ‘goodness’ of the monies spent by B is if A is getting high marks, passing some exams, and getting into renowned colleges or obtaining a great job (if it is a high paying job, say in a multi-national company, then nothing like it!!).

For the poor, hapless, sincere and genuine student A, who cannot spend too much money on education, the ‘goodness’ of the service can only be measured many years later when they can apply what is learnt in real life situation. The cycle of return on investment is a very long one, and often the true meaning of what is learnt is completely lost!

If education and training is perceived as a product industry, then again there is a problem! The gratification on the monies spent happens many many years later……………it is unlike buying a soap or a pizza! Therefore, the ‘goodness’ of the product is hard to measure in short term.

Getting any formal education is a long, lonely and almost a personal journey………….and if the journey does not end with a meaningful and fulfilling job and life, it is a meaningless journey! (Of course, learning anything should be lifelong joy and a hobby………..but that is a point far apart from the main focus of this blog)

A few episodes that come to my mind right now (read somewhere on the net) and would like to narrate them:

  • A history teacher from Yale moved to a community college. The students at Yale came from affluent background, and recommending them some expensive books to buy and read, was not a problem. But when he did the same to the students at the community college, the students asked: “If I buy a $50.00 book, how will it help me in future?” That’s when the teacher realized that measuring a return on investment in education, and justify the costs, is a very difficult thing!
  • A vice president of a reasonably reputed training industry in India went to jail because parents demanded that the money they had paid for coaching their children did not give quality education as promised, and the teachers provided were hardly teaching anything! This was nothing but cheating!



Earlier in my blog: , I have written how this great training robbery may be avoided, and perhaps halted all together.

Let’s hope that education and training is not perceived as a ‘social service’ by the providers on one hand (which implies indifference and low quality since it is a social service), and on the other hand it is not perceived as a robbery by those paying for it.

So let’s hope and pray for the best for the Generation Next that none of them feel robbed while taking their education!


Schools and Colleges of the Future

The teaching profession is in a complete limbo……………! Why? There are many reasons for it. Some of them, as I see and experience in India, are:

1. It is a poorly paid profession. It is almost looked down upon, as non-existence. In our societies, where power and authority means money, teachers are at the bottom!

2. It is taken up by those who have no other options elsewhere in industries, very few are genuinely passionate about teaching (and are prepared to learn and upgrade their profession).

3. Quite a few teaching positions lie vacant due to various sorts of political and administrative meddling, therefore ad hoc teachers are hired on temporary basis; they can be hired or fired at will, and hence mostly filled with people (mostly women, unfortunately), who may treat this profession not as a hard core carrier option.

So what is the future of schools and colleges?

Wither chalk and talk? Wither brick and stick?

No, and there is hope! Smiley(And aren’t I glad about it!!)

There is hope because real teachers will teach and genuine students will learn!

But now it must be taken into account that the process of teaching- learning is changing rapidly in an era in which technology is changing everything.

For school levels – almost all sorts of topics are available on the internet. School curriculum designers can easily build a curriculum out of these internet resources for free! Many new technologies and tools (interactive animations, games, and problems) can absolutely help to make learning more engaging and more productive.

For college levels – it may be a little esoteric, but great content from various US colleges are available on the net (for example OCW from MIT, etc.) and again a curriculum designer can pick and choose what is available and build a curricula!

Teacher's role

A teacher can be viewed as a facilitator or a ‘filtrator’ (!!) who provides guided learning, and strategies for learning to be a skilled and competent professional.

Content and learning on the internet is bringing learners, teachers, and experts all together in a virtual learning space.  And the good thing is that everyone is benefitting!

It is changing the way we teach and learn.

I imagine the future schools and colleges to be like this:

1. Students accessing a lesson online (anywhere, even in a classroom). An admin or a teacher is monitoring everyone remotely, not necessarily in the class room. They provide adaptive learning components – to boost slow learners, and enhance competent learners.

2. Teacher or a facilitator comes in only during tutorials, problem solving sessions, lab work or for guiding a project. Teacher can assess a student’s progress and accomplishments and provide feedbacks.

3. School and college time is spent on other human social aspects such as elocutions/debates, some internal competitions, networking, sports, discipline, some social activities such as festivals, proms, etc.

4. Course content accessible to anyone with a computer and an internet can self-educate him/herself, appear for a standard exams and get a certification and a qualification!

This hopefully will bring down fees, and make education accessible to all………….that would indeed be a paradigm shift in education, and social change. There will not be any expensive and snooty college degrees for anyone – all will be equal (and in a way truly democratic)

I look forward to this future……………..

(Aside: when I see on the evening news about young children ravaged by war and displaced in refugee camps, the future schools and colleges that I mention here, is the only way to give them a chance in their lives!!)